Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's in a name? Why some succeed and others fail

Look at these names:

Black Board, WebCT, Moodle, Drupal, Mambo, Janison

Pretend you're the average educational manager who knows nothing about computers, software and the Internet, let alone teaching and learning. Pretend you believed in LMS and had to decide what system you were going to force everyone to use. All you have to go by is your Microsoft trained, strangely anti social IT unit's advice, and because you know nothing about the Internet, you really wouldn't know where to start in getting a wide range of information... Any luck a few activists and subversives in your organisation have managed to confuse you with a list. What do you do? which one sounds as though it has anything to do with education?... Yep! I know what a Black Board is. I used it and chalk so much its what made me who I am today...

That's clearly how most managers and directors decide to spend hundreds of thousands if not million of dollars on LMS software. There can be no other explanation for it. To hell with proper research, perpetual consultation, needs analysis and investigation.. we don't have the time or motivation for that. The name says it all.

Look at these names:

ePortfolio, web journal, blog, wiki

Its pathetic isn't it, but I truly believe that the reason free and open source software and free and open ways of working have not been duly recognised sufficiently in education is simply because of the names. Moodle rhymes with doodle; blog sounds like poo; drupal sounds like a late night let down; wiki sounds like... well I dunno really, but GIMP! that says it all! Even though there are plenty of research papers, opinion, numbers and success stories getting published in clear favour of FOSS and its economic model, the people who just can't resist spending money just don't get read... and like sheep, those managers and directors "do what they've always done, so we get what we always got."

Even these days, in the so called FOSS heyday, when someone in education says free and open source LMS, people hear Moodle! Tell me, who said Moodle? FOSS is what was said? Sheep I say. The education sector (of which I am a part) should be ashamed of itself. We are an autocratic structure full of conservative bureaucratic thinkers. If we were half of what we demand our students to be, (life long learners, critical thinkers, risk takers, readers, good communicators, democratic) we'd be a lot better off, well.. come to think of it there'd be no such thing as teachers, managers and directors.

We'd be fare and equitable, we'd be supportive of freedom and openness, we'd be current and well read, we'd be 21st Century literate, we'd save a shit load of public money, we'd be making less teachers redundant, and we'd be attracting better people into our workforce.

On the rare occasion that I actually do meet someone even remotely informed on free and open source software in an educational role, about the only discussion I think is worth having is on performance of the software. Crap like support, industry standard, "real" cost, and other white wash makes me wanna puke fire.

It is true that Open Office is slower to start up than MS Office, but with all the better features, formats including MS, and the fact that it runs on ALL operating systems, its understandable really. I agree that GIMP can be a wildly difficult program to use and not as featuresome as Photoshop, but when I can't afford to buy Photoshop and all I have to edit images with is Windows Paint! You bet I'm going to download GIMP! And I can download, copy and distribute these to anyone I know without a single worry that some pale faced, black shirt is gunna come and sue me. Its just a real scandal that so few people in education are supportive, let alone aware of such opportunities.

I've been pushing for the equal use of free and open source software and educational materials for 2 years, a blip in time compared to the committed work of so many others. I can't be sure of seeing any progress though, and I think its because we are playing their game. What I have seen is a stronger union of those who do get it, but at the expense of being sidelined, labeled a subversive, and having to get angry and vent with posts like this. Enough pandering to the autocratic system! Those reports and proposals are just mechanisms to sponge away our energy and actual reach.

Ignorance and stupidity prevails, reject it!


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4 comments:

Jason Plunkett said...

I can understand your reasonings for ignoring Paint.Net , but I do believe that it technically fits into the category of FOSS.

I believe this naming convention would have the drones consider the package and it is free.

The package is also very simple to use (if you have been brought up under a Microsoft regime). Admittedly it is not feature rich, but it does have layer and the other basics.

Worth Considering.

Jason Plunkett said...

Paint.Net link is broken... use this:
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/paint.net

alexanderhayes said...

G'day Leigh.

Could you please add learning objects, toolboxes, and networks to your ute-load of sector specific soporifics.

I've tried to take a position with respect to your post over at;

http://www.alexanderhayes.com/2006/05/doodles-mobile-poo-and-other-things.html

Failing that we can always go back to the debate as to whether students benefit from the use of liquid paper in schools. Dang - that was a blast from the past !

Wytze Koopal said...

Hi Leigh, I am still a fan of yours, I like what you write :-).
I sort of agree on this: the system in which we work, really sucks. But hey: since you are part of the system (just as I am), we can do our little bit of change. And you know: most people will resist as long as possible, especially those in the 'higher' positions. Ofcourse, there are exceptions.
Keep up the good word(k)!